How to Test for MRSA

Three Parts:Knowing When to Get TestedGetting TestedDealing With MRSA

MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a type of staph infection that can spread through skin contact. It usually lives on the skin without causing difficulties, but in some cases it may develop into a serious infection. When MRSA is thought to be the cause of an infection, testing is necessary to confirm a diagnosis. Read on to learn more about how to test for MRSA.

Part 1
Knowing When to Get Tested

  1. Image titled Test for MRSA Step 1
    Know when to suspect an MRSA infection. If you have a cut that isn't healing properly, MRSA may be the cause. Infections caused by MRSA don't necessarily look different from other types of infections. Here are the hallmarks of an MRSA infection:[1]
    • A red, raised sore that looks like a spider bite
    • A swollen and pus-filled cut
    • A fluid-filled blister with a honey-colored crust
    • An area of red, firm skin that is warm or hot to the touch
  2. Image titled Test for MRSA Step 2
    Get tested if you've had contact with someone else who has MRSA. Since MRSA is spread by skin contact, it's wise to get tested if you have been in contact with someone you know to have MRSA.
  3. Image titled Test for MRSA Step 3
    Get tested if your immune system is compromised. This will include elderly individuals, those who are infected with HIV, or someone with cancer.

Part 2
Getting Tested

  1. Image titled Test for MRSA Step 4
    Have a culture done. A health care professional will swab the wound and take a culture test. This is taken to a lab for further investigation. The laboratory will place the culture test into a solution and examine it for MRSA. If the sample contains Gram-positive cocci clusters, MRSA is likely the culprit.[2]
    • The sample is also tested for Staphylococcus aureus. This is performed with a latex agglutination test. The sample is placed in a tube that holds rabbit plasma and free coagulase. If staph is present, a clump will form and further testing will be done to determine whether or not the bacterium is resistant to antibiotics.
    • If MRSA is present, the specimen will continue to grow at the same rate despite the medicine. This process only takes one or two days.
  2. Image titled Test for MRSA Step 5
    Get the nasal passage tested. Another MRSA test involves swabbing the nostrils. A sterile swab is used to collect a sample that is placed in incubation and observed for the presence of MRSA. The lab process is similar to what is conducted with the swab from a wound. Within 48 hours, there will be an answer to the test.[3]
  3. Image titled Test for MRSA Step 6
    Have a blood test. The FDA has recently developed a new blood test for MRSA. Clinical tests were done and showed positive results. These tests managed to identify all positive specimens of the MRSA bacteria. They give faster results than with tests that involve swabbing. They are meant to be used on people who are likely to have a staph infection, but must be backed up with other tests.

Part 3
Dealing With MRSA

  1. Image titled Test for MRSA Step 7
    Take antibiotics you are prescribed. If you have an infection, your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics. Take the full course, even if your symptoms improve quickly. If your symptoms don't go away, call your doctor.[4]
  2. Image titled Test for MRSA Step 8
    Avoid spreading it to others. If you have MRSA, you should avoid touching other people. Wash your hands often, especially before you eat or prepare food, before and after using the bathroom, and before and after changing your dressings. This will help prevent other people from getting MRSA.
    • You may want to clean surfaces you routinely touch, like keyboards and electronics.[5]
    • MRSA can't be spread through the air.


  • It may be helpful to prevent the possibility of carrying MRSA by taking extra precautions when someone with the condition and washing hands many times each day, especially when sharing items like gym equipment.
  • It is essential to recognize symptoms of MRSA and seek medical attention immediately. It often appears as a red pimple or spider bite that is red and leaks pus.
  • When swabbing a wound that is suspected to contain the MRSA bacteria, it is important to not disturb the wound, since it may spread the bacteria.
  • Since it can take a few days to be positively diagnosed with MRSA, a doctor may prescribe an antibiotic that must be taken faithfully until the results are available.


  • MRSA can be an extremely dangerous condition. It is vital to speak with a doctor when it is suspected so that tests can be taken.
  • MRSA may be brushed off as a regular staph infection, but it is essential to insist on a MRSA test.
  • More than one test may be necessary to make a conclusive MRSA diagnosis.
  • Sometimes a person will be considered a carrier for this condition. This means that this person is not affected by MRSA, but can spread it to others.

Article Info

Categories: Infectious Diseases